Sized, contented and priced to conquest new customers — but its timing suffers from the syndrome known as “It’s not an SUV”
BY MARK MAYNARD
Cadillac has one foot on the gas and the other on a power inverter as it transitions to be General Motors’ electric vehicle division. And all this arrives with the release this year of two new gasoline-powered sedans that replace two very competent sedans.
The new models, the CT5 and CT4, are sized, contented and priced to conquest new customers in the heart of the Compact Luxury segment (CT5) and Small Luxury segment (CT4), said Cadillac assistant brand manager Stefan Cross in an email. “We don’t consider these vehicles to be direct replacements for the ATS or CTS. As good as those vehicles were, we feel that the CT4 and CT5 elevate the drive experience in the areas most important to customers.”
The new models make a good statement for Cadillac, but they have been born amid an industry-wide syndrome known as “It’s not an SUV.” But their debut could be timely because General Motors has dropped most of its “cars” in favor of SUVS or SUV-like vehicles.
“Sedans represent a gateway to luxury for many buyers and with this new sedan lineup we feel poised to draw new customers to the brand — in the U.S. and global markets,” Cross said.
And Cadillac does have a varied line of SUVs in its compact XT4, midsize XT5 and three-row XT6 crossover, which are scheduled for “freshenings” in 2023 and 2024 for the XT6. And then there is the brand-defining Escalade, which was redesigned this year.
It will be 2022 before the debut of the first Cadillac-branded EV, the Lyriq crossover, followed by the Celestiq ultraluxury sedan and a large SUV in 2023 and an extra-large SUV in 2004 with another crossover possible, according to industry reports.
CT5: $56,770 as-tested
With so much attention on SUVs today, the CT5 deserves recognition. It’s a head-turner with the fast lines and a sloped rear deck of a sport sedan, down to its distinct alloy wheels and Michelin Primacy touring tires. It looks rich and exclusive, especially in the tester’s Raven Black.
And it is priced right, sold in three trim levels with three turbocharged engine choices, in rear- or all-wheel drive. The entry model with 2.0-liter four-cylinder starts at about $39,000 (add $2,600 for AWD) and the 3.0-liter V-6 starts at about $45,000. And the mighty CT5-V, with a 360-horsepower version of the V-6, starts at about $50,000. Pricing includes the $995 freight charge from Lansing, Mich.
The tester was well-dressed with the Platinum package ($8,330), and two driver-assist packages, topped out at $56,770. As equipped, it could easily be a car to keep for a decade, with updates to the software. Cadillac’s new-vehicle warranty is four years or 50,000 miles bumper to bumper with a free first scheduled service (basically an oil change, filter and check-up). The powertrain is covered for six years or 70,000 miles.
At this posting, there was a $1,500 cash-back offer on a lease or $1,000 back on the purchase price. Current offers and incentives are here:
Sizewise, the CT5 has about the same footprint as the CTS, but it rides on a longer wheelbase (1.4-inches) and is shorter by 1.7 inches. It is the same height (57.2 inches) but nearly 2 inches wider, which shows in the wide front-seat shoulder room of 56.7 inches. And its curb weight of 3,660 pounds (rear drive) is 97 pounds lighter.
The Premium Luxury tester had the clean lines of contemporary design and a collection of desirable materials, such as the handcrafted cut-and-sewn leather (standard) applied to the instrument panel, doors, armrests and seats. Some of the plastic in the lower areas appears to be more Chevrolet than Cadillac, but the overlay of the Platinum package ($8,330) diminishes the effect. It adds gorgeous-looking semi-aniline leather upholstery that feels supple but durable, with the promise of aging to a fine patina. The front seats are eight-way power adjustable with a manual thigh extender.
Front headroom is tall at 39 inches with the two-pane Ultraview roof in the Platinum package. And legroom is long at 42.4 inches.
The twin-turbocharged and direct-injection 3.0-liter V-6 has 335-hp and 400 foot-pounds of torque 2,400-4,400 rpm. The auto stop-start at idle can be switched off, such as in stoplight traffic when it can be annoying.
With 90 percent of the peak torque at 1,800 rpm, acceleration is without hesitation. Sport mode will sharpen the shift points without being overly aggressive. The 10-speed automatic rolls on with measured smoothness. Official fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 21 mpg combined on the recommended premium fuel. My driving averaged 16 to 30.2 mpg.
A buyer could save $3,500 with the turbocharged 2.0-liter, but it has just a slight fuel-economy advantage: 23/32/26 mpg.
The eBoost braking system has generously sized 12.6-inch rotors at the front, 12.4-inches rear.
The driver area is smartly designed for the American driver, with good cup holders, charging ports, several areas for small-item storage and an easily viewed and used 10-inch infotainment display screen — with exterior buttons and switches, such as for temp and AC controls, seat heaters and ventilation, audio volume and tuning.
Especially useful is the HD 360-degree Multiview camera that gives a curb, overhead and front views and the back-up view with guidance lines. The 39-foot turning circle is wide but not unwieldy.
There’s also a “trigger” video recorder should the car get bumped or worse while driving or when parked. The trigger recording activates all four cameras to record footage to a trunk-mounted SD card that can be later replayed on the CUE infotainment system — or downloaded to an external device for possible police review. And when the recorder is activated when the car is in motion, front and rear cameras also capture footage.
Drivers will stay connected and informed with Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.
The cabin benefits from Cadillac’s three step soundproofing, including acoustic sealing and a sound-cancelling audio system. But there is still a little more engine sound that seems necessary at highway speeds with some grainy road texture on concrete surfaces. The 18-inch Michelin Primacy touring tires (245/45) are self-sealing and have a high (hard) treadwear rating of 540, but its tread life should be relatively long (55,000 miles); there is no spare or inflation system for flats.
The shift console is a functional space with wireless charging, cup holders and a controller dial to access infotainment and make touch-screen selections. The center armrest console has dual charging USBs, including a C-type and a phone slot that Cadillac calls a “shrine,” with cable access.
Sightlines are open at the side mirrors and over the shoulder. Entry height is comfortable and even feels somewhat elevated; at least I wasn’t staring into the taillights of the car ahead in traffic.
Standard driver assistance technologies include Forward Collision Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Emergency Braking and Front Pedestrian Braking.
The tester included two driver-assist packages that assisted without interfering with alarming alerts. Of use was the Following Distance indicator that works with camera system and measures in seconds how long it would take to stop in an emergency.
Camera and radar integration behind windshield, in front grille, behind fascias and in the roof-mounted shark fin antenna for the camera used for segment exclusive Rear Camera Mirror.
All lights and lighting inside and out are LED.
The back seat is one of the nicer spaces in the segment but with a tall center exhaust-transmission tunnel that makes it better 2+2 seating. The sculpted seatback wraps gently toward the door for a bolstering-cradling effect. Legroom is relaxed at 37.9 inches.
The seatback can be folded for a modest pass-through opening to the trunk. And there are grab handles with coat hooks and a C-type USB for charging.
There is a low liftover to the wide opening of the trunk, which looks more spacious than its 11.9 cubic feet. Because there is no spare or inflation system, there is some underfloor storage space, too.
Enthusiast reviewers lament that the CT5 is not the performer that was the CTS. But for the majority of buyers drawn to the sharp styling of this Cadillac, its luxurious features for a fair price will be stronger selling points.
“Passenger cars are part of the Cadillac DNA, Cross said. “They draw new customers to the brand and allow us to build performance variants and appeal to our enthusiast buyers and fans.”
Cadillac hasn’t announced any EV or hybrid variants of the CT4 or CT5, but with all the new EV crossovers and sedans rolling out over the next few years, learnings from these current sedans will definitely be applied, Cross said.
By the end of the decade, most if not all Cadillac models will be all electric, Cross said. “In the meantime, we do see a prominent market for the CT4, CT4-V, CT5 and CT5-V (as well as their future V-Series Blackwing variants) in the U.S. and across our global markets.”
2020 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
Body style: midsize, 5-passenger rear-drive luxury sedan
Engine: 335-hp, direct-injected and turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with auto stop-start at idle; 400 lb.-ft. torque from 2,400-4,400 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19/26/21 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended
Fuel tank: 17.4 gal.
Trunk space: 11.9 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 39/42.4 in.
Rear head/leg room: 36.6/37.9 in.
Length/wheelbase: 193.8/116 in.
Curb weight: 3,660 lbs.
Turning circle: 39 ft.
Standard equipment includes: smart key locking and push-button ignition, 8-way power front seats with lumbar, HD rearview camera mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, LED headlights and taillights, LED interior ambient lighting, LED lighted door handles, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with turn signals, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, wireless phone charging, 10-inch touch screen Cadillac User Experience, 18-inch painted alloy wheels, rear park assist (tones)
Safety features include: 8 air bags, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat, forward collision alert, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking
Base price: $41,690 including $995 freight charge; price as tested $56,770
Options on test vehicle: Platinum package, $8,330, includes massaging front seat lumbar, front seat manual thigh extension support, adjustable seatback bolsters, Ultraview sunroof, lighting package, semi-aniline leather upholstery, alloy pedals, Tapshift manual shift control, navigation system and Bose premium audio package, climate package, parking package;
• 3.0-liter V-6 with auto stop-start at idle $3,500;
• Driver assist and advanced security package, $1,950, includes automatic seat-belt tightening, adaptive cruise control, locking fuel door, door lock and latch shields, locking wheel lug nuts, enhanced automatic emergency braking, reverse automatic braking, leather steering wheel with magnesium paddle shifters;
• Driver Awareness-Plus package, $1,300, includes Intellibeam headlights, following distance indicator, 8-inch gauge cluster, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, heads-up display
Where assembled: Lansing Grand River, Mich.
Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper with free first scheduled maintenance; 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain with roadside assistance and courtesy loaner when serviced